Updated site


If you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. My website was pretty much broken. It was still up and live and accessible up until a few days ago, but I couldn’t post. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even get to the log-in page to edit/post/update.

So after a lot of work and copy and pasting I have a “new” site that I can update and post to again. It’s simpler, with less options to adapt the page to how I’d like it to look, but I can update it, which is the whole point. Moving forward…


I’m happy to say I was accepted into an internship. I am now a Dietetic Intern with Virginia State University. I finished my classes last winter and had a semester off and have now started my first rotation doing clinical work with a great group of Registered Dietitians at Regional Memorial Medical Center just north of Richmond city in VA. This is the first of many rotations and I will finish up in June 2016. I’ll try and keep you apprised of my progress throughout the year while posting (now that I’m able) new and hopefully interesting links, articles, recipes, and reviews.

Automimmune Genes

This is an interesting article about how old the genes are that play a role in Crohn’s and psoriasis.

“Both diseases are autoimmune disorders, and one can imagine that in a pathogen-rich environment, a highly active immune system may actually be a good thing even if it increases the chances of an auto-immune response.”
The question they don’t ask, and we’ll never know, is if these ancient ancestors suffered from the symptoms of these issues. Then you could ask the question, like in the book “The Epidemic of Absence”, would people who suffer from Crohn’s today, benefit from from being exposed to pathogens?

The New Yorker on Gluten

This is a really good read. A bit lengthy, but the writer interviewed a slew of people from different sides of the “gluten debate.” I had a couple thoughts while reading this which I’ll expand on here.


The author writes about a study where the scientists concluded that gluten was the cause of a small groups’ IBS. Gluten was introduced in a double blind study and the gluten eaters had more IBS than the gluten-free eaters. The conclusion was pretty easy to make since it was the only variable they were looking for.  A separate study removed gluten and FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols); things like onions, garlic, apples, etc. Gluten was then reintroduced to the FODMAP group and people didn’t have the IBS issues they started with, so the conclusion was made that it was the FODMAPs and not the gluten that caused the IBS issues.

I think removing gluten is easier than removing all the foods that fall into the FODMAP category. If people feel better removing one item, they may not bother trying to figure out the FODMAP rules, especially when different sources list different foods for FODMAPs. It’s possible the FODMAP diet helps fix the underlying problem and allows people to eat gluten without issue, but there isn’t much sciene to back that up definitively. Going gluten-free may just a placebo effect and people just believe they feel better because they are “gluten-free,” but I think the first study shows some people feel the effects of gluten even when they don’t know it’s there.  I do hope that people aren’t just substituting everything with a gluten-free version because gluten-free cake is still cake and full of all kinds of other junk.

The other thing I thought about was how FODMAPs effect gut bacteria. The point of being on a FODMAP diet is usually to reduce the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut. When someone’s bacteria ratio is out of order, eating FODMAP foods may increase the bad bacteria, causing gas, bloating and other IBS symptoms. It is a possibility that the people in the study experiencing IBS were not gluten intolerant but had a poor ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in the gut and the FODMAP test helped fix this balance, so when the gluten was reintroduced to the FODMAP study patients, their bacteria were in balance and they didn’t suffer any distress. If they were not gluten intolerant, fixing the bacteria solves the problem. Whereas the gluten free test, where gluten was the only variable, the gut bacteria ratio wasn’t remedied but still provided adequate relief when gluten was removed. The question becomes, is gluten the problem, or is our gut bacteria the problem? And if it is the gluten, is it dose dependent, and  the real problem is all the extra wheat gluten producers put in bread to make it airy and fluffy?

While I personally feel better when I leave gluten out of my diet, and I take a probiotic supplement and eat a fair amount of prebiotic foods, I do tend to think that the nations dramatic increase in “gluten-sensitivity” (celiac or otherwise) has a lot to do with the bacteria we are inadvertently promoting by eating lots of boxed, processed, pasteurized and sanitized foods. We have very different microbiomes inside us than our ancestors did.

If you don’t believe gluten is a problem, and you think your bacteria is just fine, I’d encourage you to think about making your own bread. The stuff used to clean and bleach flour in processed breads these days is provocative at best and detrimental at worst. How much benzolye peroxide is left in the bread you eat from the store is hard to figure out, but if you make your own bread at home, you know there’s none.

Nutrition Nightmare – Traveling healthy

Our Latest installment in Miles and Minutes. PDF link here

Nutrition Nightmare

By Paula Inserra and Wesley Smith

So, you’ve decided to branch out and sign up for an out-of-town race. What could be better than traveling to some exotic place AND running? Your hopes are high! You picked a flat, fast course. Your training was spot on. You’ve endured set-backs, sure, but you’ve pushed through the nagging injuries. You’ve put in the hard work and hammered out a ton of miles in preparation for race day. You’ve done well staying hydrated on runs and your recovery drinks, well, let’s just say they were magical! You’ve eaten right; enough calories, but not too much. High carbohydrates, check. Moderate protein, check. And low fat. You’re fit, your muscles are strong and your glycogen stores are topped off! You are ready!

Then, three days before the big race you pack your bags and head out to the airport. Going through security; “better toss my water bottle”. Uh oh, flight delayed. “I better get something to eat. Hmm, only fast food here. What, $6.25 for a liter of water?! Maybe I should just wait until I get on the plane?” Then the flight attendant hands you a measly 14 pretzels and 6oz of water. “Well this isn’t going to cut it; I’m running a MARATHON in a few days! I guess I’ll just make up for it when I get to the hotel.” You arrive. Your running buddy is dying to try this Italian restaurant he’s heard about. You think, GREAT, finally I’ll get some good carbs. You both order the specialty, lasagna; and I guess one glass of wine can’t hurt, right? Here comes the meal, wait…I thought it came with marinara sauce? This is alfredo!Panic sets in when the waiter explains that they are out of marinara and to make up for it the manager is giving you a BOTTLE of wine on the house….

Does this sound familiar? All of your months of preparation can be jeopardized in a few short days. So what’s a nomad runner to do?

Prepare. Pack healthy snacks and an empty water bottle you can easily refill at water fountains. Search restaurants and come up with healthy options to order in advance. Hit a grocery store when you arrive at your destination to stock up on sports drinks, snacks and to pick up your tried and true pre-race breakfast foods. Don’t leave anything to chance. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators or at the very least an ice-machine. If your room includes a free breakfast, find out what is offered when you check in and if they will be serving early enough for you to make it to the porta-potty before the gun goes off. It’s also always a good idea to have your own foods ready to go. You can always take advantage of the hotel breakfast for the non-necessities like plates, utensils, toaster and condiments; this way you can avoid any extra pre-race anxiety in the event they do run out of bagels and bananas…

Here some power packed options for the nomad runner:

Shopping list (no refrigeration needed)

Fruit: bananas, apples, oranges, raisins, etc.

Bagels, breads, crackers


To-go peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread

Salty pretzels


Sports drinks

Bottled water

Juice boxes

Shelf-stable chocolate milk or soy milk


Restaurant Options

Sushi: It’s low in fat, high in carbs and has moderate lean protein. Just make sure it’s fresh and from a reputable place. Add an extra bowl of rice and some miso soup for added carbs and sodium.

Mediterranean: Hummus, pita, rice, grilled skewered meat or chicken, tabouli; great sources of carbs and low in fat.

Italian: Avoid lasagna, ravioli, stuffed shells etc. Stick with plain pasta with a small amount of marinara or other red sauce. Consider non-cream based seafood sauces for all the carbs plus some natural sea salt. Add some bread on the side for an added punch, but skip the butter or olive oil.

American/Pub: Keep it simple. Order some plain grilled fish or chicken, baked potato, small salad or veggie. Add some bread or rolls and avoid sauces, mashed or fried potatoes.

Asian: Simple stir fry with extra rice and soup. Avoid tempura or other fried options to keep it low in fat but max out the sodium with a nice dose of regular soy sauce.


Paula Inserra, PhD, RD, is an associate professor at Virginia State University, where she heads the Didactic Program in Dietetics. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from the University of Arizona.

Wesley Smith, BS, is completing a post-baccalaureate certificate program in nutrition and dietetics at VSU.

NUSI Re-Writing “Eat This, Not That” With a New Study

A study, to definitively show that it’s the kind and quality of calories and not necessarily the quantity that’s making America obese, is now underway! This will hopefully redefine what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating and why. All of our “common knowledge” about what’s healthy may be based on misinformed assumptions and jumping to conclusions.

“One key study could be the hammer that dislodges the loose brick in the prevailing paradigm.” Hopefully this is that study.


Cha Cha Cha Chia….

Another article for the Miles and Minutes Richmond running magazine!


Cha Cha Cha Chia…

2012111915400853324_lrgWhat do nutrition, barefoot running and goofy Christmas presents have in common? The Tarahumara; a Native American people of northwest Mexico, described in McDougall’s national bestseller, “Born to Run”.  Tarahumara, literally means “runners on foot” or “those who run fast.” These are the guys who run long distances through rugged terrain, barefoot! Turns out, they also eat chia seeds. Other Central American natives called the chia seed “Indian running food” and warriors would use them as fuel in battle. And yes, it’s the same “cha cha cha chia” that sprouted magical fur in the mid-80’s on those clay figurines.


Chia seeds are now in everything from unique tea blends to energy bars. For health and running performance, chia seeds offer fiber, numerous minerals and healthy omega-3 fats, which is all the rage these days. While being a good source of plant protein, chia seeds also contain loads of calcium and are gluten-free, if you’re into that sort of thing. Although you probably tossed that Christmas present long ago, along with the stale fruit cake from Aunt Mabel, we may have you rethinking at least one of those decisions.


Let’s start off with what the chia seed is, and then we’ll move into what it is not. Chia seeds come from an annual herb, similar to mint, which is native to parts of Central America.  The word chia comes from the Aztec word chian meaning “oily”. Since you can extract about 30% of its weight in oil, the name is appropriate. For the nutritional nerds out there, its oil is 55% omega-3 and 18% omega-6 which can help balance the ratio of omegas in your diet. The chia seed is very small at about 1mm and can absorb vast quantities of water; up to 12 times its weight, which can help you stay hydrated. It has good fats, is high in plant protein, fiber, and minerals, and it helps reduce blood sugar spikes; when mixed with water it creates a gel which slows the absorption of sugar into the blood. Remember that paste you spread on your chia pet? That’s actually nutritionally beneficial too.


You might have already heard about some of these benefits, but is there a downside to these seemingly magic seeds? Of course no food is perfect. Let’s dispel some myths around chia seeds. First, the omega-3 in chia seeds is plant based, like flax seed, which is less useful than the fatty fish omega-3’s. When chia seeds claim to have more omega-3’s than salmon, it’s true on a gram for gram comparison, but it’s quantity over quality. Fish omega-3’s are in a form that packs more of a punch, so much less is needed to give your body what it needs.


There’s another myth that says chia seeds will help you lose weight. The idea is that if you eat the seeds dry, they will absorb water in your stomach causing them to expand, making you feel full and hence, reduce your appetite. One study tested this hypothesis; for 12 weeks subjects added 2 oz of chia seeds per day to their diet, but this did not make any significant changes in body weight or health markers. While it may not be a weight loss magic pill, the protein is good, the carbs are slow to break down and the fats are healthy, making chia seeds an overall good choice and a welcome addition to a balanced diet. Caution should be taken when adding any new regiment to your diet, especially before a run or race. We suggest you try it out before race day just in case the added fiber, let’s say, makes you a less than desirable running partner….


What makes chia seeds unique, compared to other healthy foods is their ability to absorb water. Leave a teaspoon of chia seeds in half a cup of water for an hour or so and you’ll have something akin to pudding. The soluble fiber in the chia seeds forms a gel, which slows down the digestive process, giving you a more controlled release of carbohydrates and water. Eating this “pudding” after a run will help you rehydrated as your body breaks down the water logged chia seeds.  Putting a serving of chia seeds in your coconut water, or your homemade hydration drink (check last month’s article for recipes), can help you prevent dehydration and recover after a long run.


Figure-3-Agouti-miceEpigenetics: we are given the building blocks by our parents, but you can decide how to use them. Rearrange them by changing what you eat and how you exercise.

“…our genes are powerfully influenced by environment and lifestyle to produce the unique gene expression profile with which each of us lives.”


And a study on mice shows that the building blocks can be changed by your parents diet and lifestyle.

“…two groups of mice gave birth to sets of identical babies carrying the same genes.  The babies were raised the same way from birth. They should have looked alike but instead, they barely looked related. In the first group, the babies were overweight, prone to diabetes and cancer and covered in fur the color of rancid butter. The mice in the second group were beautiful: lean, healthy, brown. Same nature, same nurture, radically different outcomes. What was going on in there?

“The difference, it turned out, wasn’t due to the mice’s genetic code, nor was it due to the environment. It lay instead in a mechanism that was mediating between the two. A gene in the sickly yellow babies was making a disease-causing protein called Agouti, which also affects coat color. The brown babies had the same gene, but it wasn’t making much of anything. It had mostly stopped working. The brown babies’ mothers had eaten a special diet during pregnancy: one rich in folic acid, which floods the body with tiny four-atom configurations called methyl groups. These methyl groups had infiltrated the growing brown mouse embryos and latched onto the flawed gene, shutting it down.


Here’s a great summary with a host of other examples of epigenetics from things like how starvation and gastric bypass effects children and grandchildren of the discontented.


Nature vs. nurture? Now there’s a third option. Diet and the environment of the parents and possibly even grandparents. Thoughts or comments? Post them below.